Washington, Nov 6: President Bush has asked Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to hold elections in the country and ''remove'' his military uniform ''as soon as possible.'' Instead of directly talking to Gen Musharraf, Mr Bush told newsmen on Monday that he had instructed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to deliver his message in a telephone call to the Pakistani military ruler.
This was President Bush"s first public comment on the political crisis in Pakistan arising out of Musharraf"s imposition of a state of emergency in the country on Saturday. Musharraf assume power in a 1999 military coup.
Bush made the comment after a meeting with Turkey's visiting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House yesterday.
''Our hope is that he will restore democracy as quickly as possible,''President Bush said.
Erdogan, who stood next to President Bush, also took the opportunity to publicly call for Mr Musharraf to change course and hold elections as promised.
Bush avoided any discussion on action that he might take in the form of aid cut if Gen Musharraf ignored his request for the restoration of democracy ''as quickly as possible''.
''Once again it's a hypothetical question,'' Bush said adding ''I certainly hope he does take my advice and the advice of the Prime Minister of Turkey and the advice of a lot of other figures,'' The President, however, appreciated Pakistan's cooperation in the war against terrorism. ''And so that's all we can do is continue to work with the President (Musharraf), as well as others in the Pak government, to make it abundantly clear the position of the United States, and then obviously we'll deal with it if something other than that happens,'' he said.
''President Musharraf has been a strong fighter against extremists and radicals, Mr Bush said.
He added, ''we made it clear to Musharraf that we would hope he wouldn't have declared the emergency powers he declared. Now that he's made that decision, our hope now is that he hurry back to elections. And at the same time, we want to continue working with him to fight these terrorists and extremists, who not only have tried to kill him, but who use parts of his country from which to launch attacks into Afghanistan.''